Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Dawn Tefft, a poetry co-editor of cream city review, emailed to accept the poem "Prairie Innocent." The editors accepted with a condition of some specific revisions. This is not the first time this has happened, although it is a rare occurrence for me. To date, I have not rejected any specific revisions an editor or editors have requested. In fact, in each case, I have found the poem stronger for the changes, even if at first I resisted the new rendering. Another heartfelt thanks for all the journal/magazine editors who take the time to do what they do best.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Besides reading today, I've written not one, but two new drafts. The past week or so has been a little shaky...more questions than answers...not a lot of writing...one whole evening of horrible reality TV...beginning to feel like a true, huge crisis of faith in my being as a poet. My poor husband had to witness the meltdown.
I had dreamed of a summer of nothing but writing. I had created an impossible scenario. I had forgotten that I also had a life that required living in the meantime. I had not given myself enough time to recharge; I had not given myself enough slack in the line and it snapped.
I go in lurches and fits. So be it.
Winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award and published in 2008, Kristin Bock's Cloisters is a new favorite. I have written lately of being a bit lost and unsure in both my writing and my reading. I've gone through several other books on my "to read" shelf this week and haven't been drawn to any of them...until Bock's book found its way to the top of the stack. I've just finished my second reading of it today.
It's another small book, in the sense that it measures 5 1/2" x 6". I don't know why I'm fascinated by these outside the norm productions, but I am. In this case, the size of the pages reflects Bock's tendency to write short lyrics, as I do, which perhaps explains my affinity. Of the book's 38 poems, only 7 run on multiple pages. I like that the short poems don't get swallowed up in the white spaces. This is a well-balanced book in every sense.
Bock's writing is focused, tight, laser-like. Her images serve the larger purpose of their poems and yet each one begs to be held for a moment on its own. She writes of love and loss and simply being human in a world of nature and emotion. The book is divided into five sections, named for five months: October, December, February, April, and August.
The first poem of the book, "On Reflection," begins:
"Far from the din of the articulated world,
I wanted to be content in an empty room--
a barn on the hillside like a bone..."
A line from "Phrenology" that sticks:
"I lay my head like a hive in your hands."
"Reverse the plough! Pluck me from this orchard of
bones--from the hummingbird flying backwards
to kiss an orchid. ..."
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
Spent a fun weekend with friends in Illinois and took in a Cubs game. Thanks to Sean Chapman for taking my new author photo at Wrigley Field.
In the mail today, the latest issue of Meridian, one of my favorite journals. I've been busy catching up with things today, but tomorrow I plan to read it cover to cover, including an interview with Jane Mead, one of my favorite poets writing today.
Also in the mail...two rejections, but I've had such a good string of luck this year that I hardly feel them.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Several weeks ago, Samuel Wharton, the editor of Sawbuck, emailed me to ask if I had any poems I'd be interested in submitting. That was the first time someone completely unconnected to me sought out my work. Another milestone for me.
Yesterday, Samuel emailed to accept two poems for publication in the Winter 09/10 issue. Many, many thanks for the support!
I hope you all will check out this great online journal.
Friday, June 12, 2009
I received an acceptance email yesterday from Matt Baker, an associate editor at Blackbird. They've taken one poem for the Fall 2009 issue. This will be my second appearance with them, which is a real treat. Thanks to all the fine people who make Blackbird what it is.
On another note, I spent this morning trying to rebuild Glacial Elegies, after stripping it down yesterday to a spare 37 poems. (In case you haven't noticed, I write short lyrics, so all of my poems are one pagers.) A few of those removed yesterday made it back in today, but I have definitely axed some older poems that now seem not to fit as well and I added some newer poems that I think more directly apply to the arc of the book. It's such a complex process that I have a hard time getting my mind around the thing as a whole. I'm just squeaking in around the 50 page mark, but I feel the book is stronger for the revisions. The photo shows the whole manuscript laid out on our eight-foot table. Thanks to the wonderful husband who lugs the table out when I need it.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Read Katrina Vandenberg's poem "Courage and Horror Stand Side by Side" up this week at Linebreak. You can even listen to Steve Mueske read it as well. There's a line in there that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone.
Thanks for the great poem, Katrina and Linebreak.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Cruising around on the internet, I stumbled across a reference to "guillemets" in reference to punctuation. Having never read or heard the word before, I looked it up. Ta da:
From Meriam-Webster online: either of the marks « or » used as quotation marks in French writing.
In the mail today, an art book: Grant Wood: An American Master Revealed. A friend recently sent me a postcard with a Wood image and it reminded me that I've long wanted to learn more about this iconic Iowan. PS: I love being able to buy used books over the internet!
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Yesterday, I received the kindest rejection. The rejection came with a back issue of the journal and an encouraging note to send again. Thanks to Renee Soto and the other editors of Roger. I will definitely keep you all in mind for the next go-round.
Friday, June 5, 2009
This morning it struck me that this academic life really is a blessing. All this week, except yesterday when it rained, I've started out by reading for several hours on the deck. The sun rises over the house, so I'm mostly in shadow, except for a swath of summer light on the very far side. As far as I know, there's nothing to stop me from this routine for the next two months, and I am glad for it.
Today, I switched from books to journals and picked up the most recent issue of The Missouri Review. It must have arrived several weeks ago, but a testament to my distraction is that I totally missed the name of friend and fellow U of A MFA alum, Adam Prince, on the cover. In grad school, I was a huge fan of Adam's stories, "borrowing" the fiction worksheet to see what he'd come up with next. Today, I read his story "Big Wheels for Adults" with great expectations and I wasn't disappointed. His skill at drawing characters is amazing. I highly recommend!
I've long admired this journal, and when I think of a new issue, the word "meaty" comes to mind. I know that I'm in for a fulfilling read. There's no fluff here and rarely a story, essay, or poem that misses the mark. After reading Adam's story, I went back to the poetry (usually my first stop). I felt a kinship with Lisa Williams' ocean poems, although I'm a land-locked poet. Frannie Lindsay's elegies for her sister were filled with those details that become super-real in death. And Christina Hutchins offered up longer poems with a depth to them that I envy. As for essays, Deborah Thompson's "What's the Matter with Houdini?" held me rapt and sharing in her grief.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I picked up Pathogenesis by Peggy Munson at AWP at the Switchback Books table. I wasn't familiar with either the poet or the press, but I'm glad I stopped when the little square of a book caught my eye. (The book measures 6" x 6" and feels great in the hand.)
The core of the book emerges from Munson's life experiences suffering from Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), a disease I must admit I was unfamiliar with until I read the book. The book is grounded in the poet's body, a body in pain, a body in constant battle. This could easily have become they type of book that keeps me reading just by the sheer unusualness of the subject matter, and yet the poems rise above the subject matter into art.
Munson's ear is finely tuned. She makes great leaps with word choice and syntax. The poems almost spring from the page there is so much energy entrapped within. The book ends with the title poem, a long sequence of ten sections. Here are some favorite lines.
From "Pathogenesis" Section II:
"I imagine the desert landscape: nuclear waste sold to Indian reservations,
bomb tests, thievery of the vastness. And think: whose daughter imploded here,
which star metastasized as she wished upon her body, hand flat on chest?"
From "Pathogenesis" Section VI:
".... Still, the wolf incisors put the red in fairy tales, and blood spills / over childhood myths of fairness."
From "Pathogenesis" Section IX:
"I have grown as permeable as a night of rotting irises, // my blood-brain barrier a colander for all the poisoned green."
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
It happened the way I'm sure publishers hope it will happen. I went to a panel at AWP and heard Ada Limón read from her forthcoming book Sharks in the Rivers (Milkweed, 2010). During the reading, I fell a little bit in love with her, the way readings can make that happen. Later, wandering the book fair, I found her name on a book and bought it. Lucky Wreck, which won the 2005 Autumn House Poetry Prize, has been on the top of the stack since I got back and now, blessed be to summer, I have time to read.
One of the things I admire about this book is Limón's straight-forward voice, no punches pulled but still with a lyricism that draws me in. There are the usual wide-ranging human themes and little moments of hard-earned wisdom offered up as just that...take them for what they are worth, take them or not.
Of course, being from a prairie state, which means being from a place defined by wind, how could I not love a book whose first line is "We solved the problem of the wind" (from "First Lunch with Relative Stranger Mister You")?
Section Three, "The Spider Web" is an amazing crown of sonnets that just blew me away. The ability to sustain the formal elements and link the seven sonnets so intricately is mirrored in the extended metaphor of a spider working a web throughout. Some lines that stuck with me:
from sonnet 2
"As a child I remember knowing how to float
When sober was the wind and my body, the boat."
from sonnet 3
"It's not God, I tell you. It's my mother,
Though there is little difference between the two.
I'm convinced that together they're planning a coup."
from sonnet 7
"If I had my choice, I'd have a boat of my own,
The sails would be my skin, the bow my bones."